Passive-Matrix LCD uses one transistor to control an entire row of pixels. Like the active matrix the diodes are liquid crystal over a very fine grid of wires.
When the current is applied to the diodes the crystal lights and you get a display again much like a pixel.
The display is constant because the current applied to the diode is at a persistent (passive) or specific rate. This rate is known as the refresh rate.
The lack of individual transistor controls to the diodes makes this a less expensive display option.
There is also dual scan passive matrix display option where the screen is divided into half and scanned at the same time with current making the screen appear brighter with higher resolution.
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